Academy of Distinguished Alumni
Jerome F. Thomas Ph.D.
Inducted to the Academy of Distinguished Alumni as an Honorary Member on
Jerome Thomas received his Ph.D. degree (1950) in Physical Organic Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. He also received a B.S. degree (1942) in Chemistry from De Paul University in Chicago. Upon graduation from De Paul, he immediately enlisted in the U.S. Navy and then graduated from Midshipman’s School at the University of Notre Dame. The Navy sent him to Berkeley for training in diesel engineering before his departure to the South Pacific during World War II. He served as the Engineering Officer aboard LST-991 (Landing Ship, Tank) that saw heavy action in five major island assaults. At the end of the war, he returned to Berkeley for graduate school. While still a graduate student, Professor Thomas joined the Department of Civil Engineering in 1948, starting as a Teaching Assistant and rising through the ranks to become a Full Professor in 1965. He taught in the Department until his retirement in 1987, at which time he became Porfessor Emeritus. Professor Thomas was born in Chicago on January 8, 1922 and he passed away at the age of 97 at his home in Berkeley on November 7, 2019.
Professor Thomas applied his expertise in chemistry to a wide range of civil engineering problems including water and wastewater treatment, air quality, hazardous waste management, corrosion, and fires and explosions. His research addressed practical problems that included the destructive decomposition of organic wastes, fate and transport of aromatic compounds in polluted atmospheres, treatment of odorous materials in water, and the impacts of oil shale process wastewaters on natural receiving waters. Professor Thomas served for 12 years as the chair of the Hydraulic and Sanitary Engineering Division of the Department of Civil Engineering and for many years was a member of the Berkeley campus Committee for Arts and Lectures.
Federal, state and city governments, as well as a variety of industries, frequently sought his expertise as consultant. Professor Thomas also served as a consultant to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He held five patents for methods and apparatus for the destructive decomposition of organic materials. He also co-authored the book Industrial Water Chemistry, first published in 1973.
Professor Thomas, a father of nine children, was a gentle, kind, and considerate Renaissance man who contributed greatly to the life and fabric of the Department of Civil Engineering. As just one example, when his Ph.D. advisor, Professor Langlier, lost his eyesight late in life, Professor Thomas went to his house every day to read to him. A master wood carver, and President of the California Carvers Guild (1998-2000), he led a freshman seminar in “Wood Sculpting and Related Art.” One of his seminar projects was carving “The Greeting Bear” that now resides on the seventh floor of Davis Hall greeting students and guests of the Department.